Let's start from the beginning, what is representation exactly? The technical definition is “the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way or as being of a certain nature.'' In other words, representation is having figures, people, or even experiences shown in a bigger light that exemplify real life. Now to answer the big question, why is representation so important? It's important because when something is not generally discussed, and well-understood misconceptions start to form that can potentially be harmful. For example, it's often thought that people with dyslexia read words backward, however, this is a myth. If dyslexia had proper representation in the media, this misconception wouldn’t be so popular. In reality, dyslexia is a learning disability, that encompasses difficulty reading and writing due to trouble distinguishing between sounds and how they relate to words. Children with dyslexia should have positive role models to look up to that mirror themselves. Children understand the world around them by what they see and hear. If they only ever see dyslexia portrayed in one way, whether negative or not, then it can create a certain mold that they feel the need to fit into. With proper representation in the media, kids with dyslexia will be able to see that the sky's the limit.
The media has an innumerable amount of resources when it comes to portraying society, the most obvious being through social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc), movies/ TV shows, books, music, magazines, news channels, etc. This being said the greater number of these portrayals only represents one side of reality. Typically the media tends to favor white, Christian, able-bodied, heterosexual individuals, with an occasional token character for the claim of diversity. When it comes to representing the small number of people who do not fit the “typical” model, these mediums tend to gravitate towards stereotypes. For example, Muslim characters usually play terrorists, Black /Latinx people are conveyed as uneducated thugs, or people with disabilities being depicted as incompetent. Although these examples are seen more from television/ movies, other outlets such as the news, or magazines, that account for existing people, tend to follow the same pattern, and keep diverse people in the background. In recent history, the media has begun to break this classic mold, and show more diversity, but it is still a slow process to illustrate a more realistic representation of the population.
Finally, how can you make a difference? It can be as simple as starting a conversation; dyslexia and other disabilities are often seen as taboo, and not usually a topic of conversation. As many as 1 in 5 kids have dyslexia. Talking about it openly can remove the stigma, and create a sense of community, which can take off the emotional and mental pressure. Or you can join a hashtag! Many Twitter users have begun using hashtags as a way to promote dyslexia awareness and spread information. Lastly, tell your story; it can be easy to feel alone in whatever issues you're experiencing with your child, or yourself, but opening up takes a weight off your own shoulders and lets others know they’re not alone.
Tags: Dyslexia, Inclusion, Awareness, Representation, Learning disabilities
- Dyslexia. (2017, July 22). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dyslexia/symptoms-causes/syc-20353552.
- Tawil, Y. (2017, July 11). What Exactly is Media Representation Anyway? Retrieved from https://arabfilminstitute.org/what-exactly-is-media-representation-anyway/.
- Representation: Definition of Representation by Lexico. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/representation.
- What You Can Do. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://dyslexia.yale.edu/advocacy/toolkit-for-parents-educators-and-students/what-you-can-do/.